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What Is a Virtual CIO?

Virtual CIO meets with a potential customer and discusses options at a desk with a laptop.

A Virtual CIO, often called a vCIO, is a person or company that provides the service and functions of a traditional Chief Information Officer for a business without having that actual person on staff. For companies that are growing, start-up initiatives that do not have the capacity to support a full-time c-suite executive, or businesses that have a hole they have not filled yet, a vCIO is a great option.

Virtual CIO Explained

In traditional business, a Chief Information Officer, or CIO, is the leader of the information technology strategy and accompanying IT department (or departments) for a company. They are a thought-leader in this aspect of the business, and they work closely with the other executive team members to align on visions and next steps needed across the company.

A CIO’s ultimate responsibility involves four main components:

  • To understand how to use technology to guide and drive a business forward,
  • To understand how to use technology to be competitive in their market,
  • To use the best tools available to meet the company’s goals, and
  • To navigate an ever-changing and ever-evolving tech landscape.

Day-to-day tasks and duties of a CIO include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Developing the short and long-term strategy for the IT Department, tools, and initiatives
  • Planning the IT budget
  • Creating the IT goals of the company
  • Holding teams accountable for the IT strategies put in place
  • Overseeing IT changes
  • Serving as an IT specialist and advisor for the CEO or Owner(s)

The day-to-day tasks and duties of a Virtual CIO can actually be the exact same.

The biggest difference is that a vCIO is not a part of the company, and this person or assigned representative may or may not ever be physically on-site.

Depending on the contract put in place, the individual business situation, and the overall company needs, a vCIO’s involvement with a company can look very different:

  • They might visit an office on a regularly recurring schedule for maximum in-person collaboration.
  • They might only be available remotely via phone, email, and online meetings through platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
  • They might be hourly or contracted for a specific period of time (especially if the company’s goal is to hire an actual CIO on their staff or is actively interviewing).
  • They might be an individual assigned to a specific company’s account or a team of specialists who all might support the initiatives depending on strengths and availability.
  • They may or may not oversee or manage an existing IT department or staff already in place.

Regardless of in-person, remote, or hybrid, a company’s IT structure, plan, and strategy are huge components of its business that need to be covered by someone who is qualified.

What Are the Benefits of a Virtual CIO?

A vCIO allows companies to grow their IT department, structure, and components and can provide critical help in a time of a business transition. For example, critical projects like a new IT plan or IT system roll-out.

A Virtual CIO fills a hole when that expertise is not on-site or not yet in existence, but there are many more benefits of a Virtual CIO:

  • They bring much-needed IT knowledge to the current team.
  • They bring a different perspective and unbiased outlook because they are not in the weeds of the day-to-day company.
  • They are often more cost-effective than a traditional, salaried employee who requires benefits, PTO, etc.
  • They are contracted, so companies can truly think through the help they need and design a contract accordingly.
  • They can be brought on temporarily to add strength to the current IT team for a large project like a new platform release.
  • Their onboarding is extremely fast, and they do not have to go through a company’s traditional HR process.
  • They have flexible schedules and flexible forms of communication.

IT structure and strategy are integral to a business’ impact, growth, and bottom line. Being able to outsource these responsibilities is huge and is a benefit in itself.

What to Determine Before Engaging a vCIO

While the benefits of a Virtual CIO cannot be overstated, businesses do want to think through a few things to determine the best approach to a virtual and contracted position:

  • Is your preferred partner up to date on new IT products, trends, and approaches to business management?
  • What experience does the individual or company have?
  • What type of businesses or markets has this individual or company supported?
  • Will they be a good cultural fit for the current IT team and larger C-suite leadership team and stakeholders?
  • What is their approach to IT strategies? Are they creative? Are they visionary? Are they interested in serving your specific organization, or do they have a more one-size-fits-all approach?
  • What is their approach to project planning?
  • What is their approach to team management and leadership?
  • Are they flexible and willing to truly understand the factors and risks of your business?
  • Have they owned a budget before?

Then there are more general determination factors, such as cost and scheduling availability.

Business owners and executives also need to understand that they are bringing in a high-level executive who is not a staff member of their company. A Virtual CIO will not be involved in the private conversations of the day-to-day office or necessarily understand the small nuances of a company.

Another thing businesses need to determine is how adding a virtual role will impact their current team and overall company dynamics. Hiring a vCIO is not a simple or knee-jerk reaction decision, so businesses should take their time, do their research, and understand their needs before pulling the trigger.

If you think contracting a Virtual CIO is the right decision for your Tulsa or Oklahoma City company, contact JD Young Technologies today. One of our experts would be happy to discuss your needs, budget, business processes, challenges, and technology goals to match you with the right Virtual CIO solution for your business.

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